the making of modern michigan

Browse Collections
Browse by subject
Browse by institution
participating libraries project background
Bloomfield Blossoms: p. 38-39
Smith, Kay, 1925-

Bloomfield Township Public Library

Bloomfield Township (Mich.) -- History

Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1805-1859 -- Journeys -- North America.

Beaumont, Gustave de, 1802-1866

Item Number

part of 'Bloomfield Blossoms' by Kay Smith

text, image


THIS AREA WAS ONCE A WILDERNESS The carefully landscaped well-tended lawns and solidly built houses we see in Bloomfield today are far different from what this land was like as late as 1820. It's hard to believe that only a century and a half ago this area was a total wilderness, the complete antithesis of what it is now. No need to use our imagination to try to envision what it was like. We have an on-the-scene description from a witness with a super-observant eye and a writing skill which has placed him among the great authors of the world. What brought this aristocrat from Paris to Bloom- field Township in 1831 and prompted him to describe every aspect of it in a treatise called " A Fortnight in the Wilderness"? The chronicler was the great French statesman and writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, whose works, notably "Democracy in America" are on library shelves everywhere and whose theories are taught in political history courses around the world. A little background on him and the times is necessary to prepare us for a walk into the world he saw that July day of 1831. Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de Tocqueville was born in Paris on July 29, 1805, a descendant on both sides of his family of the peers of France. At age 21 he was appointed a magistrate of the Tribunal at Versailles, a post he served well. He participated in the Revolution and in 1830, with his friend Gustave de Beaumont persuaded the Tribunal to send them to America to observe the penal system which was considered quite advanced for the time. The two companions reached New York on May 10, 1831, and after researching their subject on the East Coast, set out across Lake Erie to Detroit and expressed their determination to see something of a real wilderness. As we will see in the following account, they were thwarted at first, but eventually found their wilderness and their first glimpse of pioneer settlers in none other than Bloomfield Township.

Bloomfield Blossoms: p. 38-39 part 1 Bloomfield Blossoms: p. 38-39 part 2

The Making of Modern Michigan was funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency that supports the nation's museums and libraries. Through agreement, this site is hosted by the MSU Libraries and therefore is subject to its privacy statement. Please feel free to send any comments regarding this site to